By Jason Brandt (@Jasondmg3) I just saw the movie UP IN THE AIR, and for me, it fell flat. For example, spending two hours watching people get fired was just not particularly enjoyable (and a bit stressful, I must admit). The movie, however, wasn’t a complete disappointment and from time to time some scenes rise Read more

By Jason Brandt (@Jasondmg3)

I just saw the movie UP IN THE AIR, and for me, it fell flat. For example, spending two hours watching people get fired was just not particularly enjoyable (and a bit stressful, I must admit). The movie, however, wasn’t a complete disappointment and from time to time some scenes rise up into my consciousness and I catch myself smiling. One such scene was when Ryan Bingham (Clooney’s character) was giving Yoda-like advice to Natalie Keener (his Clarice Starling) on how to maneuver through airport security in the most expedient way possible. “Avoid getting in line behind old people and couples with children; look for the Japanese guys, who travel light and wear slip-on shoes”. He is right.

Daily, we are all faced with the mind-numbing reality of waiting in lines. In some cases, we have no choice, and a line is thrust upon us. There are many occasions where we can choose what lines to commit to. But how do we make that choice? How do we best select the right line that will allow us to move through a given task in the fastest way possible? Are there clues, tells, hints that will allow us to choose one line over another? Coming from a guy who spends half his life on the road, I am fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough) to have an opinion on this topic.

Trivial, you ask? Perhaps. But consider this. It is documented, the average American wastes the equivalent of 2-3 years of his or her life waiting in lines. As a professional with a few miles under my hood, I swear 2-3 years is a conservative estimate.

So with that, I am happy to bestow some advice on the tell tale signs of getting through lines as fast as possible. No longer will you curse yourself for choosing checkout line A vs. B. Or toll booth 1 vs. 5. Now you will speed through lines like a hot knife through butta’.

Grocery check out lines

Here is the lowdown. Every mega Piggly Wiggly-like superstore has an average of 10-15 check out lanes. Assuming all lanes are open, roughly 5% are express lanes and another 5% are self-check out. There are variations of course, but this is pretty standard. That being the lay of the land, here is the skinny:

1. Always go to the open lanes farthest away from the frozen food aisles. People generally get their frozen food last because they don’t want melted Chubby Hubby. In our laziness, most people will move from the frozen food section directly to the nearest checkout lane possible, thus creating longer lines relative the rest of the lanes. So walk the extra 50 feet to the other side of the store – your energy will be rewarded.
2. Self-check out lanes are not always a time saver. There are specific groups of people (let’s call them Dumb-Ass-Do-It Yourselfers or DDYIs for short) who like using these lanes, but fail miserable at moving through them quickly. If you find yourself behind these people, find another lane tout de suite. DDYIs are proud to take control over their life (commendable), but many times unaware of their mental limitations (unforgivable). For example, despite using this device a dozen times, the DDYI still doesn’t understand that bananas have no UPC. Um, please try produce lookup, danka…

Then there is the STSCs (Stoned Teenager Seeking Chips). Avoid getting behind them at all costs. STSCs travel in packs and only have chosen the self-checkout lane because they can’t deal interacting with a non-stoned, adult. (total buzz kill, man). Unfortunately, we pay the price because it takes them ten minutes to figure out how to pay for a $2 bag of Cape Cod Salt and Vinegar.

The last group to avoid on the self check out lane is the MADs (Middle Aged Divorces). MADs are buying dinner for that night – to heat up – in a microwave – in his/her ”executive suite”. MADs can be a little angry in general. They are also in a hurry because they would rather avoid human contact – and in his haste, they scan incorrectly – belt in full lock up, the manager is there to lend a hand, meanwhile, alas, your clock is ticking.

So what lane do you choose? The unlikely lane of course. The lane with the mother of two screaming kids and the full cart. Mom is a professional. She hates going to the grocery because it’s a task that makes up 70% of her life. Her disdain, makes her an expert at moving through checkout like a bandit. By the time she hits lane #5, the kids are well fed with cookies and bagels from the Bakery section. This allows mom to dexterously move the items to the belt, scan her frequent shoppers card and pay in cash – never a check thank you very much.

Now, during this entire process, we are all tempted to abandon our chosen line and pick another we think will be faster. We have all done it — moved from stagnant line to one that seems to be ”moving” just to watch the original line speed along without YOU in it. Do yourself a favor, stop the guesswork, pick a line and commit. To move is to fail.

Airport Security

This all assumes you are given a choice:

Get behind parents with strollers! First, everyone avoids them because they think all the gear is a hindrance. Just the opposite, these folks are skilled at the art of stroller folding and corralling backpacks, sippy cups and pillows. Ride behind their wind.

Young professionals tapping email on smart phones are also winners. The “don’t talk to me, take no prisoner” attitude they apply to their career drives them through security in a flash. They know the drill – computers in the bin, jackets and belts off, boarding pass in hand, 3oz shampoo resting quietly in a transparent zip lock.

Now who to stay away from? Any and all groups traveling in packs. Doesn’t matter which one. School groups, sporting teams, church groups, bachelor parties. To them, anything about flying is all-social (an outing) where time is not of the essence. Plus, they spend a ton of time figuring who is missing—which is a time suck.

I could also mention old and obese people but that would be cruel.

Toll Booths

Two words: tractor-trailer. Always get behind them. People generally choose not to because those lines are longer due to their length. But the math works: one truck is roughly the length of three-five cars.

Avoid the person who cannot decide between EZ Pass lane and cash. These folks will get to the gate to find out they either don’t have money or don’t have their speed pass tag. You all know what I am talking about.

Never go down the middle lane, always veer to the left or the right. Also, don’t avoid cash lanes. Sometimes, they are quicker and its worth shelling out the two bucks to not wait in the speed pass lane.

Fast Food lines

The age old question: At what point does a line at the drive through lane become so long that it no longer counts as “fast food?”

Easy. If there is a line, don’t drive through. Long drive through lines may mean there is NOBODY at the counter in the actual restraurant. So park, walk the required 50 feet inside the burger joint and order. Who knows, you may even put an ever-so-slight dent in the 1500 calorie meal you are about to ingest.

So with that advice, fly, fly, fly little Starling. Don’t ever be bullied by a line. Take control, speed through lines, take no prisoners. Scan the situation and chose your best option. And above all, if it feels right, go with it – sometimes that’s the best way to choose!